Sous Chef Career

September 28, 2012 21 Comments

What Is A Sous Chef & What Are They Responsible For?

What Is A Sous Chef & What Are They Responsible For?

A Sous Chef is second in command after the Executive Chef in a professional kitchen. This means he or she answers to the chef, but also has some authority over the other kitchen staff. Many of the terms that relate to cooking and cuisine in a professional setting are French. Sous is French for under, so you can see how the sous chef would work directly under the leader of the kitchen.

If the Chef is unavailable or off for the night, the sous chef is in command, and the kitchen staff is expected to offer the same respect to him or her as they would to the boss. Often times, a Sous Chef will work in the role for several years with the goal to move on to become an Executive Chef. In this way, the role is considered practical training for career growth.

What Does a Sous Chef Do?

It’s important that a sous chef be intimately familiar with all the activities of the kitchen and be prepared to do them in a pinch. He or she will prepare and cook food, and know all styles of cooking done in that kitchen, including such skills as French, Italian, and Fusion cooking.

The Sous Chef is also responsible for overseeing the kitchen staff, which may involve scheduling or dealing with personnel conflict.

The Sous Chef of a kitchen will also make sure that the food a restaurant or commercial kitchen is using is of top quality, and that staff are being mindful of the cost standards that come with the food. For instance, if a steak costs $10 per 8 ounce serving, it is important that staff do not serve 12 ounces, costing the restaurant in oversight.

As assistant to the Executive Chef, the Sous Chef will help with menu planning, inventory, and managing of supplies. He or she may also aid in making sure the kitchen is up to safety standards, and that staff are obeying sanitation rules.

Being a Sous Chef is not an easy job. During mealtimes, it’s important for them to be quick on their feet and be able to make smart decisions instantly. They often work for long hours with little of the overall credit, but creativity will be the element that helps him or her shine on the way to becoming chef.

Leading by Example in the Kitchen

While Sous Chefs do not have complete authority over the kitchen, it is important that they be strong leaders as well as team players. Being able to communicate with staff is key, especially when stress mounts and tempers rise.

To succeed, a Sous Chef should lead by example, keeping stations clean, preparing foods properly, and cooperating with others. He or she should make decisions that get the best out of every situation, and ignore his or her ego if it arises.

A Sous Chef should have respect for the Executive Chef, and value the Chef’s decisions at all times. That being said, the Sous Chef should not be afraid to offer suggestions or creative ideas that can improve upon the kitchen’s performance.

How to Become a Sous Chef

One of the most important steps in becoming a sous chef is gaining kitchen experience. You may have to start by washing dishes or cooking fries, but every experience you gain puts you one step closer to your career, and it can take years to work up the ranks.

It’s also important to build a relationship with one particular chef. That may mean following him or her from one kitchen to another.

Another important step is to study at a culinary school. There are many located worldwide that offer completion at top-notch programs in as little as two years. Check to see what sort of job placement rate the schools offer when you apply.

Keep in mind a city with a high level of tourists, like Orlando, will probably have a higher placement rate due to the sheer number of restaurants in the city.

You will need to be dedicated, creative, and determined to succeed as a Sous Chef. You will need patience to deal with difficult staff and customers, and communication skills to ensure your staff feels like you consider them a part of your team.

How Much Does a Sous Chef Make?

The salary you earn just out of culinary school will depend on the city, your restaurant, and your skills. You can expect to average between $25,000 and $50,000 per year.

The requirements may vary for a sous chef position, as some require just a bit of education and more experience in the kitchen, while others look for a culinary degree. No matter what you do to get there, however, remember that being any member of the kitchen is a valuable experience.

As you grow and develop, you’ll learn where your strengths are, and you can capitalize on those to build a strong, profitable career in the kitchen.




Last modified on Fri 27 October 2017 2:48 pm

Comments (21)

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  1. Monique Pate says:

    I love cooking and would open my own kitchen if had funds to do so.

  2. juan says:

    very interesting thanks you.

  3. sujan paul says:

    i am Looking for Chef job Urgent

  4. moustafa says:

    thank s very much nice information

  5. Emmanuel B. says:

    This job seems like a good work path and i would want to look in to this some more to make a better future

  6. chandravanu biswal says:

    Thanks very much nice learn about…junior staff in kitchen (Food production Department).

  7. chef rajeev thakur says:

    This job seems like a good work path and i would want to look in to this some more to make a better future..

  8. shain says:

    hello lookin for some advice
    my girlfriend is a chef/cook were shes workin and she well over qualified for
    it she has two years in of cullenary arts and is still considerd nothing were she is and her manager/sous has no education/schooling for the position how can i help her to help her self to up her rank

    • Andrew says:

      The wonderful thing, in theory, about most kitchens is that by their very nature they encourage a meritocracy. Which is to say, staff who work the hardest, accomplish the most and add more to the business are rewarded more than those who simply show up no matter their qualifications or previous experience. Culinary school lays a groundwork of theory, it is not the guarantee of a higher salary or promotion, it should put you a step ahead but the rest is up to you. Your girlfriend needs to realize this and put her head down and work, work hard. If she’s in a kitchen where hard work isn’t recognized, then she should find a Chef who will acknowledge her efforts. It may, and should, take years of hard work, late nights, missed holidays, burns, cuts, mental and physical breakdowns before your Girlfriend achieves her goals but like anything worth having, it’s worth working for. Cooking isn’t glamorous, it’s the service and hospitality industry and the majority of the people who enter it will make a living but very little more. Be thoughtful, diligent, work harder then the next guy and maybe you can succeed enough to build a real future. I have 12 years of experience in the industry, having worked in some top restaurants and I am currently the Head Chef of a very successful spot…but, your mileage may vary.

  9. jim hudson says:

    hello I am 53 years old with bad credit I need some help to go to a chef school I love to cook please call me my name is Jim thank you for your time

  10. aishwarya dev want rana says:


    this is A.D.Rana.My passion is to prepare exotic dishes from all over the world. I have strong knowledge of classical European, International, World Cuisine, Mediterranean, Fusion, and my culinary strengths are hot and cold appetizer, soups, sauces entrée, vegetable, roast including Grill Indian curry. I have gained extensive knowledge through work experience of French cooking techniques in cuisine philosophy and principles, and good knowledge of herbs, spices, and flavoring.

  11. Jonathan Woodward says:

    I have been working food industry collectively for 10 years and really consider myself very lucky to have achieved my position as sous chef so quickly. It didn’t go without hard work and dedication. Starting out broiling chicken and washing dishes to catering glorious spreads consisting of fine seafoods and other proteins, and multi cultural cuisine that makes your pallet explode. I have done other “jobs” in between but the culinary world is far more of a blessing and a way of life than the in between things. Passion belongs in the time, care, heart and creativity resulting in every dish just as well as it belongs to the person enjoying what you have bled for so long to perfect for their enjoyment. Never take it for granted. It can be life changing. I had a girl with suicidal tendencies come into our restaurant with 2 friends (one of which I know personally) and had not experienced food outside of the norm. She was introduced to many things including a fine seafood risotto and that’s all it took to boost her up. The girl pulled me aside and told me that the experience of the food had changed her opinion on many things and realized that there are beautiful, passionate things out there well worth staying around to enjoy. Nothing has ever made me feel more proud of my involvement on this planet. It’s a hard reality at times for an employment aspect but nothing is more rewarding.

  12. BigDropInc says:

    Excellent web site. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to some pals ans
    also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you to your effort!

  13. Logan says:

    This is very awesome thanks

  14. Akeem says:

    Thanks Alot Now I Have A Career

  15. bosco says:

    I like this- thank you.

  16. Great article on the fundamentals of being a sous chef. Their importance as a leader in the kitchen and the work that goes behind becoming a sous chef is well explained.

  17. Nosizwe Nogomba says:

    I’m looking for a job as sous chef I love to cook I can gourmet cuisine I need experience I’m a fast learner very dedicated and focused. Please help

  18. John says:

    I am junior sous chef in my place of work. I do everything that I am asked to do but yet my head chef just doesn’t think I am performing well enough for my position. I take part in food costs, menu planning, I order from suppliers and I also do a lot of sections in the hotel I am at as well as we have 3 different kitchen that have 3-4 different menus between them. I just don’t know what I am suppose to do and would like some professional advise thanks.

    • John, thanks for your comment. I am not a professional chef so I’m not sure what advice I can give you but it sounds like you issue may be more of an Human Resource problem and not a sous chef one. I’m sure you know many other chefs, sous chefs and people in the industry. You might try asking around to see what your friends tell you. Good luck and please let me know how everything works out.

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